‘No’ To Peace

Unending War in Nagaland

[Following is a slightly shortened version of a Press Release issued by the Amsterdam-based Naga International Support Center (NISC) on May 17, 2015 condemning the retaliating ambush by the NSCN Khaplang on 8 soldiers of the Assam Rifles for killing four NSCN(K) men.]

Dominating the headlines the killing of 8 Assam Rifles (AR) men by the NSCN-K freedom fighters has rightfully been exposed by Indian national and some international media. NISC lauds this media coverage on these inhumane killings but also points out that brute killings by the Indian Army and Assam Rifles committed on thousands of Nagas have gone practically unnoticed; these simply did not appear in the media; national papers, magazines or were not broadcasted. Though deplorable it is how the Naga NSCN-K operated against their fellow human beings, NISC wonders why Naga victims did not and do not receive the same exposure when threatened, arrested, disappear, tortured, raped and finally killed.

However the well deserved media outburst against the NSCN-K not exposing the plight of the Naga People is hardly reported; no background on the motivation for this atrocious act is given; no word on killed K men and no reference to past atrocities committed by AR or Indian Army under the command of the Government of India.

So, these two questions are crying out for answers:
1.    Why did this, in Nagaland Burma/Myanmar and India, well known armed group resort to killing members of the Assam Rifles?

Out of frustration and because of running out of patience of being under occupation.

2.   Why has exposure and media coverage on the multitude deaths of Nagas been ignored, even suppressed?
Because Indian and Myanmar media act as exponents of the ruling classes and for dozens of years the international media had no access to India or Myanmar thereby lacking knowledge on the history and perspective of this long but relatively unknown armed conflict.

It may be mentioned that the NSCN (K) after abrogating the cease-fire agreement with the Government of India on March 27 has launched series of attacks on Assam Rifles posted, the most brutal being the Changlangsu (Mon district) ambush where eight AR personnel including a Naga TA (164) Bn jawan were killed.

Again NISC does not diminish the impact on family and nation regarding the slain AR men but states that the brutalities committed by the Indian Army and its paramilitary forces should be exposed equally so the full picture on this 60 years of conflict can be understood.

NSCN-K group abrogated the ceasefire with the Government of India (GOI) but is still in ceasefire with the Government of Myanmar (GOM) and has its main base there. The peace talks, of which it is not part, they state only has meaning if sovereignty of Nagaland will be established. Khaplang split off from the then NSCN which in itself was founded in 1980 after the Shillong Accord of 1975 over the same issue of accepting the Constitution of India or continue to fight for independence, and called itself NSCN-K.

From the inception of India as a state Nagas categorically stated they wanted to be free to rule themselves. But the British handed the Nagas over to emerging India and in 1954 India occupied the Naga lands. Though complicated one thing is clear; a war has been unleashed on the Nagas and though first Prime Minister Jawarlahal Nehru was responsible for starting the war, the present Modi government is accountable.

Nagas have lived under the yoke of occupation for 60 years now and many of them lost their lives, or were both tortured or raped and maimed. Given the atmosphere of occupation where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act exonerates every Indian soldier of atrocities committed and the picture of understanding becomes increasingly visible.

After 1988 Khaplang's NSCN was founded two more split off and now there are no less than five groups claiming to represent the Naga Peoples. Only the NSCN called NSCN-IM, due to its prominent leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingalang Muivah, is in Peace talks with the GOI.

That this atrocity has been highlighted and so serves as an example for all including the culprits is journalistically good, yet it would make Indian journalism so much better if the same was true for those who are at the mercy of the Indian Armed Forces and Assam Rifles. Next to acting in self defense, no person, no nation, nobody can be pardoned for killing someone else and so this counts for members of the NSCN-K group it does for the Assam Rifles who actually operate under the command of the GOI and so are deployed to keep the long war running. Another aspect in this drama of bloodshed is the role of the GOI and its divide and rule policy. This money and weapons provided by the GOI lured Nagas in and created practical equality was the cultural norm. On top of that the GOI uses the peace talks to wear out the rightful resistance drive of the Nagas which it militarily could not decide victoriously and so could not subdue the unwilling but rightful owners of their own land. Hence reactions on deceitful behavior by the Government of India and exercised by its military forces led to tensions beyond comprehension.

Consequently, what NSCN-K does cannot be condoned neither can Government of India be condoned what it has been doing for 60 years and so this should equally be exposed. Perhaps under pressure of the GOI the Indian media are unwilling to do that leading to the possibility that the pressure cooked Naga military forces have no option but to act. Since NSCN-K is in Myanmar and close to China it is no secret that that nation fancies a little bit of help to its friends by supplying weapons.

Observing the escalation geopolitically the tables might be turning. Never ending talks for peace between the GOI and the NSCN-IM are ever deeper eating into the cultural heritage of the Naga Nation which could lead to drastic initiatives like what NSCN-K is doing. That, in itself, makes Myanmar (already there is no proper communication between Myanmar and India regarding the newly formed 9 Northeastern armed groups which range from Boros to ULFA which have bases on Myanmar soil) and China, long-term friend of the Nagas, supporters of their cause of ridding themselves of foreign domination.

But there is more: to understand the geopolitical importance, Nagaland West (India) and East (Myanmar) is situated at the tri-junction of India, China and Myanmar and thus when Anthony Shimray was arrested in Nepal by Indian operatives of the NIA, National Intelligence Agency (secret service), on the charge of procuring arms and waging war against the state of India, it became obvious the main objective was to remove him, this thorn in the flesh of India. Shimray was the liaison man of the NSCN-M and China and still rots in jail while India is the biggest importer of arms and does not hesitate to use these against its own people, its own officially even though the people, (Nagas), had no say in the matter of being part of India or to be independent (although this is what they conveyed to the British when the Simon Commission in 1929 came to hear what the Nagas wanted when the British would leave the subcontinent.)

Though like many others, including NISC, condemn ambushing and killing the Assam Rifles, it is India that sacrificed the lives of these AR or could at least have prevented them from being killed. In fact India till date never published figures of victims, neither of their own soldiers nor of Nagas. The estimated figure of slain victims of the war in Nagaland carefully documented by the organization Naga People's Movement for Human Rights is around 300,000. Since the Indian Government also signed the UN covenant on the right to self determination of peoples it has shown disregard only and arbitrarily arrested Nagas without proper reason or trial because India did the same as charged: procuring arms to wage war against the Nagas.

Vol. 47, No. 48, June 7 - 13, 2015